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Friday, February 6, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Officials oppose bill to protect foster parents

OLYMPIA — State and union officials oppose a bill that aims to protect foster parents from retaliation by state caseworkers, they told legislators yesterday.

Legislators also heard from a half-dozen foster parents who told tales of caseworkers who threatened, intimidated or harassed them after they made waves in the system.

Char Wellner of Toppenish described how her daughter, a first-time foster mother, at first asked questions and made suggestions to caseworkers about the care of her foster son, Rafael Gomez.

"She was told things like, "If you don't like how we're doing it, we'll just move him to a new foster home,"' Wellner said. "I called it blackmail."

The 2-year-old died Sept. 10, six months after he was taken from foster care and sent back to his birth parents, over his foster family's objections.

In December, a medical examiner ruled the boy's death a homicide, though no charges have been filed. DSHS has launched an investigation.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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